Groups opposed to plans for a development on greenbelt land in front of a Grade II listed house in a South Tyneside Village are celebrating after an application for planning permission was withdrawn at the last minute.
The application by local architect Craig Fitzakerly was seeking approval for a large-scale, eco-friendly, single storey family home to be built on the site of the former ornamental gardens of the 18th Century Undercliff Hall in Cleadon Village.
Members of the Undercliff Preservation Society and residents of the historic Undercliff Hall who have been campaigning against the plans only learnt that the application had been withdrawn at the eleventh hour the day before August Bank Holiday weekend.
The society’s chairwoman, Sharon Döring, said that they were all hugely relieved when they heard the news, which came within a day’s notice of the hearing.
“I was sitting in the council offices with my barrister who was to speak on my behalf, along with another member of the professional team at the planning committee meeting when I received a phone call to say Mr Fitzakerly had withdrawn his application.
“We were all absolutely thrilled that the plans have been withdrawn but also astonished that it was so last minute.
“We have been battling this application since May and it has been a roller coaster ride. There have been five previous attempts to build within Undercliff Hall by the previous owners of this plot of land, all of which have been refused, two of them at appeal level.
“The planning consultant acting on behalf of Undercliff Preservation Society commented on the devastating contents of the officer’s objective and precise report that, linked to the previous refusals, would materially prejudice any future application on the site.”
Mrs Döring further commented: “Even though the planning department had yet again recommended a refusal along with Historic England and South Tyneside Historic Officer, we were very anxious that it might be approved at planning committee this time around.
“Our worry was that our local ward councillor Margaret Meling was to speak in support of the application despite the damning reasons for recommending refusal which were based upon inappropriate development in the greenbelt area, the significant harm that would be caused to the setting of Undercliff, and the impact on the local wildlife site surrounding Undercliff Pond.”
Mrs Döring said that the campaign to oppose the plans was motivated by a desire to preserve the last Grade II listed House in its entirety left in Cleadon Village, which is of both historic and architectural importance, as well as the abundance of wildlife in the 10 acres of grounds that surround the Hall.
“We are very passionate about protecting the setting of this unique building which we believe would be lost for future generations if the proposed development was given the go ahead.
“We were absolutely devastated when we learned that a letter of support for the application had been submitted by Cleadon Historic Society, which had always been strongly opposed to development on our historic site, along with our three local newly elected ward councillors.
“We were very puzzled by their actions as they had not visited Undercliff to see what impact the proposed development would have on the Grade II listed hall or to consult the residents before deciding to back the scheme.”
Lifelong Cleadon Resident and member of the Undercliff Preservation Society, Colin Lemon, also voiced his concern about the councillors’ actions.
“We felt very unfairly treated by our local ward councillors and concerned that they appear to be acting in contravention of the Nolan Report* by not speaking to all parties involved.
“It was also very disappointing that they were supporting a development on greenbelt land especially as they have gone on record with the opposition to other greenbelt projects in the area.”
Mr Lemon, a former footballer whose career included a stint at Arsenal in the 1960s playing alongside George Armstrong, added: “On the other hand we have nothing but praise for South Tyneside Planning Department who have done a fantastic job and produced a fair and thorough report as well as the internal consultees who have been totally professional throughout.”
Sharon Döring added: “The residents want nothing more than to see this piece of land and the lake, which has been neglected over a period of years due to failed planning attempts, restored and reunited with the rest of the landscaped gardens of Undercliff.”